Conjunction Junction: AND or OR?


Luke 14:25–35

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life’such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.

“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

Consider This

He’s clearly gone too far this time. What’s this about having to hate my mom and dad and sisters and even my life in order to be a disciple of Jesus? Is he serious?

Yes, he’s dead serious, only we must understand what he means by hate. He does not mean hate as in, “I despise you,” or as in, “You are dead to me.” It’s not an affective term at all. He’s talking about the priority of one’s allegiances and loyalties.

Let’s remember what this journey to Jerusalem is all about. Jesus is making disciples. He’s teaching and demonstrating what it means to follow him into the kingdom of God, the ever-present and everlasting reality of eternal life.

Let’s recapture our bearings. Our journey to Jerusalem is bookended by two similar things Jesus said to his disciples, first in Luke 9 and again in Luke 18:

“Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying. (9:44–45 ESV)

And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (18:31–34 ESV)

Most interesting here (at least to me) is the similarity in the last sentence in each passage. We find ourselves, with the disciples, somewhere in the middle of these two bookended sayings. This land in-between is the land of listening to him, the territory of transformation, the path of discipleship. It’s also a place that can be challenging to understand.

In today’s text, Jesus is working to separate the wheat from the chaff, the crowds from the converts. He isn’t breaking up families. He’s clarifying allegiances. He’s effectively saying, “When the time comes and a conflict emerges between your family’s values and the way of my kingdom, your choice needs to have already been made. Count the cost now.”

Looking back, he’s made this abundantly clear with respect to wealth, status, prestige, and honor. To the extent our trust in wealth conflicts with our trust in him, our wealth is a problem. In such a case we don’t have wealth; our wealth has us. Same with family. Family is a great gift of God, but to the extent our family impedes our discipleship it’s a problem. Jesus is not giving us ultimatums and either-ors. He’s calling for steadfast, singular allegiance. In fact, he basically says if you place your only allegiance and trust in me, then the rest of your life, your family and wealth and relationships and so forth, will come into order. If you try and split your allegiances and hedge your bets, in the end you will have neither me nor those things you trusted in.

Bottom line: following Jesus comes down to all-in or not in at all. I don’t want it to be that way. I want to soften this for reasonable people, and the church I have grown up in so far has done just this. Maybe that’s why the church I’ve grown up in looks more like the crowds than the disciples.

We want the ease of the and. You can follow Jesus and pursue great wealth. You can follow Jesus and make your family your own little island kingdom. You can follow Jesus and live in the self-assured status of your social importance. The truth? Jesus is not about the and, but the or. The power is in the or. He’s calling for a decisive choice to be all-in with him. The power of the or is the way it leads to real abundance. It’s not Jesus or family. It’s just Jesus. It’s not Jesus or wealth. It’s just Jesus. It’s not Jesus or status, prestige, and power. It’s just Jesus.

And Jesus has a marvelous way he brings the and back around for those who choose the or. “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,” he said, “and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33, emphasis added).

Let me close with another of Jesus’ sayings we will do well to listen to. Back in chapter 9 Peter made his famous confession of Jesus as the Messiah. If that were to happen in today’s church, we would slap high fives and do chest bumps and rush off to baptism and a great lunch. Then we would try to get them involved in the crowd—I mean church activities.

Not Jesus. Immediately on the heels of this earth-shaking confession, he says this: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24).

It’s time we love people enough to invite them into this kind of life-losing/life-saving life. Until we do, we are just playing the crowd, I mean church.

All who will go all-in for Jesus will find him becoming all-in-all for us. There’s no better place on earth.

The Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a son/daughter.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a saint.

The Question

What might it mean for you to become less of an and person and more of an or person? Not Jesus and, but Jesus or.